I can eat jicama all day long like its nothing. Perhaps literally, because it IS like nothing. Slightly sweet and crunchy nothing that leaves a powdery dried finish on your lips as they dry. Jicama is really nothing more than a carrier for things like lemon and chili I thought, until today, when I had to find a use for the one that I had slowly declining in my crisper.
Rather than do things like a normal cook would, I instead turned to my old friend, Wikipedia for help on what to do with this crunchy chunk of nothingness. Not only did I learn the history of the cultivation of jicama (thank you Spain!) and that the only part that isn’t poisonous is the bulbous root (thank you defense mechanisms!) but virtually nobody does anything thrilling with jicama. Except Indonesia. They have jicama recipes nailed down flat with the national specialty of rojak.
Does anyone really like deli salad? I mean really like it, not just “eat a spoonful to be polite and pretend to like it” like it? Can you ever think of a time where you just had to have a satisfying scoop of mayonnaise, celery and starch?
Perhaps its just me. At any rate, as I’m keeping up with this Fourth of July theme, I thought I would cover the hallmark of the holiday with a comprehensive history of deli salad. Incisive food news at your fingertips.
Remember how I said that one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to clean one surface in my apartment every single day and it led to this recipe for lemon pound cake? You know, that one where (horror of horrors!) I found an old Weight Watchers cookbook and sullied their name by reversing all the healthful benefits of their recipe? Well, you would have if you had subscribed to my blog, liked the Facebook page or read those tweets. Just sayin..
Anyways, now that I’ve given you a moment to click on all three and sign up, I had also found an unopened bag of lentils in that cabinet that day. Come on, you know you do it too. You think “I’m going to make something hearty and satisfying for a dime!” in January, put it on the shelf with all the rest of your economical dried beans and pasta and stuff, then realize that the bag of plucky little lentils goes untouched until Kwanzaa of the next year. Don’t give me that look. I bet its the only reason navy beans are still sold as well.
Well, that happened to me. Sometime this last year I bought a bag of lentils, thinking I was going to make something and then I didn’t, and then the bag just sat there all year. So I decided that there was no better time than the present to use up some of those economical little bastards.
But how? I have never been a big fan of lentil soup, likening it to a bowl of brown sandy mush. I see that there’s a trend right now of putting lentils under pieces of meat at restaurants, but I’m a vegetarian. No way was I going to touch a casserole with these babies, that would be heading into mid-seventies post hippie mom territory. It must be salad.
So I got to work and made this thing, and admittedly it IS a good simple combination of lentils and whatnot, but it kind of defies “salad”. I tried it with lardons of goat cheese at first (by the way, lardons of goat cheese don’t form a crust nearly as well… or at all… as slices off the log) and that was fine, but this definitely seems better suited as a side dish.. or maybe even under something for you pescatarians out there. It also may well work on top of some salad greens, who knows. Warm, cold, somewhere in between, this works. Whatever you would like to call this dish, I personally would err on the side of “wow”.
-I cup dry lentils
-4 cups vegetable stock
-1 red bell pepper, seeded and membranes removed
-1 1/2 cups crimini mushrooms
-1 clove garlic
-2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
-ground black pepper
1. Put the lentils and stock into a pot and cover it. Bring the pot to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer.
2. Meanwhile, finely dice the red bell pepper, shallot and mushrooms. Set aside.
3. Heat some oil in a saute pan over medium heat. While the oil is heating, thinly slice the garlic.
4. Add the garlic to the pan and let it cook for a minute or two. Then add the rest of the vegetables that were just chopped. You will lightly brown these.
5. Stir the pan frequently. Add in salt and pepper to taste (about a tablespoon of each).
6. When the vegetables pick up a little color, turn off the heat and set them aside.
7. The lentils should be pretty close to done by the time that all the vegetables are cooked. If not, let them go for a few minutes more.
8. Combine the lentils and the vegetables together in the saute pan. Add in the balsamic and stir well. Adjust the seasoning as needed.
9. If the liquid makes the salad seem a little “soupy”, they can be heated slightly to cook down some of the vinegar.
10. Serve immediately or chill.
So just the other night I was making dinner and I thought I would be healthy by incorporating a salad into the mix. I picked through the fridge, not really excited by the idea of a salad but going through the motions anyways, when it dawned upon me. “Self!” I said, thinking to myself out loud. “You know what sounds good on those boring salad greens? Ranch dressing! Sh’yeah!”
Just to note, I was completely sober when I said this. It wasn’t like one of those late night salsa-and-popcorn-sound-super-bangin’ type situations.
Also to note, I’m not high brow enough to pretend that I don’t actually enjoy a good buttermilk ranch from time to time. Made properly, ranch dressing is quite tasty. It also happens to be an extremely versatile dressing to work with. Add garlic, remove garlic. Add herbs, remove herbs. This dressing is your oyster, so to speak.
I decided to go on a lemon tarragon buttermilk dressing. It was a nice shot of warm weather in comparison to the doldrums of the icy purgatory that I call Brooklyn in January. And it definitely made those salad greens more enjoyable.
Lemon Tarragon Buttermilk Dressing
-1 cup grapeseed oil
-Juice of one to two lemons
-2 tablespoons chiffonaded tarragon
-1 quart buttermilk
-Black Pepper, ground
1. In a food processor, add the egg, a pinch of salt and a little lemon juice. Start everything on a high speed to incorporate.
2. When the egg is blended, start adding the grapeseed oil SLOWLY in a thin stream. Make sure that the emulsion does not break.
3. If the emulsion gets to be too thick, thin things down with more lemon juice, but keep adding that oil.
4. Add in some salt and pepper.
5. Start thinning the dressing down with buttermilk. While the food processor is still going, stream in a little buttermilk. You will probably use about a pint total, but keep thinning the dressing until the consistency is how you like it. (See? Versatile.)
6. Lastly, add in the tarragon and blitz one last time.
7. Serve immediately or refrigerate covered for up to 1 week.
So I’ve been getting mail for the last tenant who lived in my apartment for about a year now. Nothing special, but I know that they liked The Film Forum, The New York Botanical Gardens, the occasional play and Burton Snowboards. Every day I seem to find something inconsequential in my mailbox, and I usually just put it in the recycling bin as I lock up my bike.
When I moved into the apartment, the lady who I pay my rent to at the management company told me that this tenant was moving in with her boyfriend and was “I think a chef somewhere?”. I didn’t really care that much at the time, being more consumed by how best to lay out my apartment for favorable feng shui when I moved in. I had noted though that she had a nice sounding name, it was rather unique.
Tonight, however, I decided to look up who this Ilse Parra person was as I threw out another offer from Continental Airlines offering her 15,000 miles to sign up for a credit card. And guess what- as it turns out, I live in the apartment that the chef at Caracas Arepa Bar lived in. Yes, that Ilse Parra. I felt that I had ARRIVED!
The even more ironic part about this whole event is that the gentleman caller and I had just eaten there this week as well. How odd of timing is that?
Anyways, I decided to pay homage by creating a spin on my favorite dish there, the enselada fresca. It came out nowhere close to as good as Ilse’s.
Bitty bites of delicious. Tiny tomatoes in olive oil with roasted garlic, a chiffonade of fresh oregano, freshly grated romano and pepper. Dass it.
A papaya chopped salad consisting of papaya, avocado, red bell pepper, sweet onion, papaya seeds, oil, salt and pepper. So weird, yet so good.
Tiny heirloom tomato and kirby cucumber salad dressed in olive oil, vinegar and a chiffonade of oregano.
I kind of feel dirty using fake bacon, but whatever. All you non-vegetarians have the advantage on this one.
This sounds like an odd combination, but its balanced quite well. Chicory salad with strawberries and a mustard vinaigrette and.. white chocolate. My only note for next time is that I’d probably leave the chocolate on the side for the eater to nibble on at their discretion. It was cold and shattered when I went to snap off a piece, so I chopped it and dispersed it within the salad. Not bad, but it had unexpected explosions of sweet. However, it did temper the bitter of the chicory and tartness of the berries nicely.